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Wind turbine size a concern for commission as new ordinance develops

Manchester’s Environmental Commission weighed in on the draft of a forthcoming renewable energy ordinance, saying that the guidelines should clarify the size of wind turbines in an effort to protect birds and bats.

In its current form, the ordinance does not specify the maximum size for rotors, something that chairperson Robert Runyon said could present a problem to the flying animals.

“It talked about height and it talked about noise, but I didn’t see anything about the size of the propellers,” he said. “That, to me, from an environmental perspective the biggest environmental damage that’s been associated with wind turbines has been the rotors killing birds.”

Runyon said that between 40,000 and 60,000 birds are killed in the Midwest each year by such systems as the animals migrate.

Commission member Michael DiGiore expressed concerns that, especially during migratory periods, birds may be struck by turbine rotors.

“We have a lot of migratory pathways for songbirds as well as water fowl and other species that use New Jersey as a corridors for going north and south,” he said.

Though the ordinance states that a “small wind energy system,” which has a capacity of 100 kilowatts or less, must be installed on a lot at least 20 acres, cannot exceed 140 feet in height and must not produce more than 55 decibels of noise measured at the nearest property line.

DiGiore noted that the ordinance requires that a Wildlife Habitat Assessment Report must be completed by the applicant to address “the impacts to existing bird and bat populations by the wind energy system.” This would ensure that the system is not too large or dangerous.

Runyon said that size guidelines should be included in the ordinance so the applicant can plan accordingly.

“That should be addressed, in terms of how big it’s going to be,” he said. “I think it would be helpful to the applicant to spell out, if there are limitations, what they are.”

Commission coordinator Marianne Borthwick said that the recommendations will be sent to the township planner and he will do the research into the danger to birds.

The Environmental Commission is expected to conclude its discussion on the matter during its regular September meeting. Manchester’s township council will then consider a final version of the ordinance, including any recommendations by the commission, at a later date.